Thursday, May 28, 2015

On Being a Bloom

This post, now slightly edited, appeared on a previous blog in a previous spring.

A Rose Bloom **
My last name is Bloom. Bloom, like a flower. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I've said that.)

It was not my last name in the beginning; I married it. But it has been my last name longer than the last name my parents gave me. So, Bloom it is. Not Bloem, not Bloome, not Blume. For sure, not Bloomsma (a nod to my years in Western Michigan, which is populated by more than a few Dutch folks). It is Bloom, like a flower. And I am oh so glad my first name is not botanical in nature. 

Rose Bloom? Violet Bloom? Daisy Bloom? Orchid Bloom? I don't think so. 

I also suspect my husband would have avoided a relationship with anyone named Dandelion, unless she was so Bloom-worthy that a name like Dandelion Bloom would have been acceptable. (I just quickly Googled Dandelion Bloom to see if I am offending anyone here. I seem to be safe, but you never know.)

I have tried to do my part to keep the name Bloom in good standing. I have tried to Bloom Where I Am Planted and avoid, with at least minimal success, a Bloom Where I Have Ranted reputation. But keeping the name in a good place is not just the responsibility of the Bloom families around the world. Advertisers and accessory producers also bear responsibility.

The word Bloom is everywhere in spring and summer! Lipstick ads, furniture ads, clothing ads. Insurance ads, auto ads, food ads. Bloom into Spring! they say. Really, this occurs every spring and summer. You would think they could at least alternate years with some other family name. Maybe there are some Grasses out there. Grass into Spring!

Then there are those who make plaques, flower pots, jewelry, and general spring decor objects with the word Bloom on them. I am less inclined to hold them as accountable because I actually own a few of these products. I feel almost obligated to do so, because if your name is Jones you are not so much given this opportunity. But please, don't make ugly with Bloom. Do you hear me, Cracker Barrel?

But you know, maybe, just maybe, Dandelion Bloom would have been a fun name to have.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Power of Fix, Big and Small

This post, now slightly edited,  first appeared on a former blog in November 2011.

There is power in fix, as in a fix for what is askew, annoying, stifling, or just plain wrong. Especially wrong. 

This concept came home to me when I heard what an HGTV designer said to a teary-eyed homeowner whose eyesore kitchen with a miserable layout, lack of storage and workspace, and cantankerous appliances had been weighing on her for years. Her homemaking and hospitality gifts had been difficult to live out in such a place. Seeing her new kitchen, courtesy of TV ratings, overwhelmed her. She was even shaking, leaning on her husband for support. 

Extreme reaction, you say? Yes, I know many, many people in the world don't have anything close to a kitchen or even enough food. My point is how this woman felt and what the designer said to her. She told her she understood how it feels for something difficult to be fixed, that there is power in something ugly in your life made beautiful.

I thought about what she meant by that and how true it is. Think about it. Many times we let a situation or circumstance that can be fixed hang on—everything from a missing button that keeps us from wearing an item of clothing, to lending a hand to someone who just needs a little help, to the wrong job that perhaps can be traded in for something more suited to us.

What keeps us from making a difference with a word, a kindness, a brave move, or five minutes sewing on a button? Yes, when it comes to "big," it could be a big barrier, like the lack of funds for the mom and her kitchen on HGTV. But when it comes to "not all that big," it could be our own laziness or indifference or cluelessness. Ouch.

Think of the last time someoneor even you—fixed something askew in your life, big or small. How did you feel? Grateful? Happy? Relieved? Unburdened? Beautiful? Yeah, that. That's the power of fix.

Not everything "ugly" can be repaired, eliminated, made beautiful. But here is a thank you to everyone who ever showed its power to me. (God started it, of course. He's known for it. Talk about power . . .)

But I don't think I'm getting a brand-new kitchen, am I? No, I didn't think so. 


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Yes, I Edit Novels about the Amish

Sometimes people who ask me what kinds of novels I have edited look confused—some almost stunned—when I include books about the Amish. “The Amish write novels?” they say.

I’ve read that at least one Amish woman writes novels with the permission of her bishop, but as I understand it, for the most part novels about the Amish, which are wildly popular, are written by authors who research those communities through travel, interviews, and the assistance of Amish friends they have made along the way. (“I checked with my Amish friend, and she explained this is the way most Amish families manage that particular dilemma.”) 

Much of the general public is aware that Amish communities exist, but their perceptions are limited and idealized through the media, movies (like The Witness), picturesque encounters with buggies on a road near an Amish community, or vacationing in places like Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. It is also easy for we Englishers to lump Amish, Mennonite, and similar communities together as “those people.” 

That was me too. I still am no expert just because I have edited a few novels about the Amish, but I have learned much I did not know, particularly from Christian novelists Vannetta Chapman, Amy Clipston, and Kathleen Fuller

Most of the novels about the Amish are, I believe, published by Christian companies, and most are primarily romances (though I have edited an Amish mystery series too). The novels address not only the most common human emotions and stages of development and how they can play out in the Amish life, but all-too-human drama common in the lives of everyone—men and women alike.
But why do I think novels about the Amish are so popular? 

·         The stories are infused with faith, commitment, and family—yet include realistic doubts, fears, and tragedy. Guilt, secrets, jealousy, crises of faith, miscarriage, teen pregnancy, abuse, longing . . . it's all there.
·         Speaking of longing, the romances are generally sweet and innocent—but not devoid of hormones. Enough said.
·         The simple and peaceful ways of the Amish come through—even or perhaps especially when there is trouble in their midst. Readers get a welcome and thought-provoking presentation of busy yet not hurried, sheltered yet not exempt lives.

All of the above make it possible for us to relate to these stories even if we do not live "apart" as the Amish do. I have not fully nor in detail explained these books, their authors, or the Amish, but I do have an answer for those who are surprised that novels about the Amish not only exist but are bestsellers: 

“Most of the novels are written by non-Amish authors who have come to know, love, and highly respect the Amish and their way of life. You should try one!”


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothering: If I Had It to Do Again, I'd Add More Adventure!

My three children have been adults for a long time now, and two of them are married and have children of their own—all under the age of nine. Those five grandchildren give me another chance to experience the smiles and hugs and antics of little ones, and I hope I’ll experience their milestones in life, like driver’s licenses, graduations, professions of faith, and weddings.
**In honor of an adventure we did have!
But though it is my privilege and joy to love my grandchildren and support them (and their parents) as they grow, I don’t have the same responsibilities toward them I did as a parent. Which does not stop me from thinking, once in a while, about when I was in full-on, active mothering—the kind that both keeps you awake at nights and provides handmade gifts on Mother’s Day—and wondering what I would do differently. All three of my children—a daughter and two sons—are wonderful people, but could their childhoods have been . . . better?

Yes, I am that person/mother/worrier.

I am not talking about more hugs, more being present, and more listening and sharing, though I wish I could be sure as a mother I provided enough of those. (I’m not sure, but I am also afraid to ask!) No, what I wish I had done differently is this: crafted more adventure.

I didn’t grow up in an adventurous family. In fact, I would say my parents were for the most part risk-averse in many ways. Not completely, of course. My mother, a social worker, once ran the largest Indiana county’s food stamp program when the economy had tanked and so many people were lined around the city block for assistance that she was interviewed several times on TV.  That had risk written all over it. Dad was a pastor and led groups to the Holy Lands more than once, to say nothing of some adventures he had before he became a Christian (think working on a riverboat). In some ways, especially in their early lives with family issues and poverty, survival itself was the adventure.

But both instilled in me a life of caution, and I probably did too much of that with my own children. Not counting the time I let my college-age daughter go on a mission trip to Haiti for two weeks with a group of people she had never met—after the airlines took her off a small plane with a propeller problem and then just put her back on the same plane before she ever left our home city. Not counting when my older son took off alone post-college in his car for a life in California and my younger son at eighteen drove off one morning in an old car with a friend just before college, to simply drive out West and back with no actual itinerary and little money. (All three events were before common cell phone ownershipat least in our family.)

Those times—and probably more “adventures” I have conveniently forgotten—scared me to death, but somehow I let go and let God. My pulse is racing a little now just thinking about those times, and I have to say they did not affect my cautious nature for the better.

No, I am thinking about more adventures we could have had as a family, if only we had prioritized them despite our commitments and busyness and never being even close to independently wealthy: Trips to the beach once we lived less than an hour away from Lake Michigan. Visits to parks and museums. Picnics and hikes and maybe even snow shoeing as long as we lived in the frozen tundra called Wintertime in Michigan. Mission trips as a family.

But we didn't do much of that. We were busy. We had chores and schoolwork and jobs and bills to pay. We were responsible. We, the parents, were the grown-ups, one firstborn and the other one wired that way, who had to make sure IT ALL GOT DONE.

And we were . . . cautious. Yes, we took vacations (and my kids will know the significance of the pictured lizard) and Dad took them fishing and we camped (once) and their childhood was not abysmal and completely bereft of fun. But adventurous? Not so much. And that is what I would change if I could. Not just for the kids, but for us, the parents.

I am thrilled that my grandchildren are having many more adventures than their parents had, because, for one thing, motheringparentingwith more adventure sounds like so much more fun, and more meaningful too.

If you are in the throes of active parenthood, think now about whether you can or should sneak more adventure into your kids' livesand yours! Not when you are, uh, wondering if you have enough energy for adventures with your grandchildren!

Meanwhile, happy Mother’s Day!


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Why I Am Not Writing a Book

"Are you going to write a book? You should write a book!”

I think a lot of people like me who do some writing are asked this question by friends and supporters, but at some point I had to ask myself,  Am I going to write a book or not?

I was living in what felt like The Land of Excuses—waffling, agonizing, feeling like a failure as I compared myself to everyone from personal friends who have written entire, valid drafts while holding down full-time jobs and caring for families, to J. K. Rowling, who wrote her first Harry Potter book in poverty as a single mother in, I think, coffee shops! 

I have certainly given the idea much thought—especially in the last few years as I have made my living editing other people’s books as a freelance editor. I even have 10,000 words of a novel down. But I finally realized my excuses were not without validity:

·         Some people can, but I can’t do similar work (editing and writing) all day long and then write extensively for me. I burn out. 

·         Some people are good at lots of irons in the fire, but I am not. I am wired for this kind of project to be the main—and pretty much only—game in town, with most other decks “cleared.” And for me, that probably looks like retirement (whatever that is!).

·         Some people cannot not write, but I can not write—at least not a book. I want to write a book, but I don’t feel a need to, at least not now. My need for creativity is satisfied to a great extent when authors allow me to assist them with their writing and when clients ask me to write for them.

Now I have come to the place where, though others may still think “she’s making excuses,” or “she’s not really a writer then,” I know these are the reasons I am deciding not to try to write a book . . . now. Assuming I live long enough, when I am in whatever “retirement” is, I can see myself writing a book or books—probably fiction and nonfiction. Why? Because I know my need for a creative life will raise its hand and say, “Now?” And my answer will most likely be, “Yes!”

Of course, if I still have excuses then . . . somebody help me!

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